Obama campaign learnings by Rahaf Harfoush

Rahaf Harfoush heard Will.I.Am’s call Yes We Can and decided to join the Obama campaign at Chicago HQ. Now Rahaf is no ordinary door-knocker. She is a Gen-Y social media maven, consultant and frequent collaborator with Don Tapscott, including on Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital.  So now that everybody and their brother is looking to the groundbreaking Obama campaign for insight, Rahaf is a close-to-the-frontlines voice you need to pay attention to.

Her excellent presentation is online at her blog. Video is online at the Rotman site, including an intro by Alexander Manu, formerly of the Beal Institute and currently professor of Business Design at Rotman. I’m embedding the slides here:

Great story and insights. Most important insight for me was that the social media tools worked because the underlying strategy and philosophy of the campaign was itself new, different and consistent with those tools:

  1. The 50-state strategy
  2. Targeting the “disaffected center”
  3. Small donor focus

Social media isn’t a set of tactics, it is an orientation and philosophy and needs to integrate a focused brand and clear compelling message together with an inclusive and adaptable approach as well as an organization that is culturally ready to live those principles.

Strategy, message, culture. As powerful as these technologies are, it is the subtleties of their use and the human behaviours they enable that is the key to unlocking their value.

President-elect Obama is still a community organizer

Well Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin don’t get the last laugh. It turns out that the community organizer could kick the 9/11 hero’s ass and take down a helicopter-armed rogue moose-hunter for good measure. When Rudy and Palin scoffed at Obama’s background as a community organizer, I instinctively bristled.

Tuesday night showed what community organizing can do. Not only did Obama take the electoral college in a landslide, but the 50-state strategy made red states like North Carolina blue while turning many others purple. He did it with huge turnout, a dominant position among emerging voter blocks like youth and ethnic voters and with techniques learned from the trenches in Chicago.

Only a community organizer could pull this off.

The stories from the field about the Obama vs McCain ground game show the difference. Obama’s field offices were reported full and buzzing with volunteers from all over the country. McCain’s campaign offices were mostly empty and dull, or closed.

Then there’s the Obama campaign’s web strategy, which will go down in history as the first mass scale and most effective use of the social web for political or any other form of organization. But it’s just the beginning, and there is so much yet to be written!

Change.gov shows that Obama fully intends to take his massive email and sms lists, the lessons learned from the campaign and his community organizing instincts together with a new call and program around National Service to really transform the meaning of politics, community and country. The clues are there, and I just can’t help but stare in awe and amazement.

For those of us who dreamed of the potential of marrying bottom-up social movements with a new kind of leadership style, it’s hard to process that our moment may really truly be now. All of a sudden, the work of community organizing just got a new and rather Presidential luster. For those of us who work in the field where social web and real-world issues meet, it’s going to be a very busy time indeed.

Must Read: Progressivism’s End (and renewal)

I highly recommend reading my good friend David Eaves‘ article Progressivism’s End co-written with his frequent collaborator, Taylor Owen. The analysis is very strong and it is the most effectively written articulation of what I believe to be the emerging realignment of policy and politics as influenced by web technology, the creative class and the steady transition of power from Boomers to Gen Y.



Because I love it so, a couple of excerpts. On how the Left is killing Progressivism:

Seeing their hard-fought accomplishments under threat, traditional baby boomer progressives began to prioritize the survival of New Deal policies and institutions over the idealistic outcomes they were built to promote. Thus the central paradox of progressivism was born: its older-style advocates, entrenched against innovation and reform, even in the service of progressive values, had unwittingly become the new conservatives.

Continue reading “Must Read: Progressivism’s End (and renewal)”